Lucy Küng is a researcher, author, advisor, non-executive director — and speaker and host at Media Makers Meet in Berlin. Here we ask her to tell us more about her career and what she sees as challenges and opportunities for specialist media.

Media Makers Meet (Mx3 Berlin) takes place on 19-20 October at Fabrik 23 in Berlin. Two other activities — a study tour with in-depth meetings at Deutsche Welle and Axel Springer on 18 October and FIPP Insider on the afternoon of 20 October, also at Fabrik 20 — bookend Mx3 Berlin.


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As part of our Meet the Speaker, we offer 20% off tickets for Mx3 Berlin. Tickets include access to Mx3 Berlin, two lunches and food and two drinks on the evening of 19 October, when we will go to an International Street Food Market Hall for networking. 

Sign up here with the promo code “Di5rupt_20“.

Mx3 delegates can attend FIPP Insider for free, while there is a custom discount if you want to join the tour and Mx3. Read more about the tour and how to register for that here.

***Back to Lucy’s story***


Tell us about yourself.

I am a hybrid. I advise media organisations in different countries, serve on the boards of media companies as a non-exec, and also — and this keeps me on my toes — research and write about how the media industry is transforming. I do that with the Reuters Institute, Oxford University, where I am a senior visiting research fellow. 

This synthesis of both working with companies on their transformations and pulling back and studying the emerging patterns and best practices in different contexts is enriching — and valuable, I hope, for the companies I work with and the publications I write. 

I’m also personally hybrid – as a Brit living in Switzerland.

How about your earlier career?

Moving between working in the media and researching it has been a constant. In London, I worked in magazines and publishing (heading up part of non-fiction and business for Random House many moons ago). They sent me on an MBA, where I was fascinated by how culture drives a lot of strategy in the media. 

That led to a PhD studying how those interconnect, which I did in Switzerland. I followed that up with a Habilitation (effectively a more advanced PhD) looking at tech disruption in the media. That research led to the first board seats, which is when I decided to deliberately design a career which blended advising with research. 

What are the main challenges for specialist media?

Specialist media is such a hot sector right now, which means that the “pile-in” that so often happens in the media is underway. That activity and noise level can obscure a clear vision of what’s happening. It is an extremely promising growth area, but:

  • Competition is increasing (especially for the most promising topic areas); and
  • The talent issue (finding and keeping them) is also a challenge.

There’s the fact that these verticals represent a different type of media organisation. If you have the luxury of focusing only on this model, it’s far easier to kick off a growth flywheel than if you are combining general with specialist media output.

What are the main opportunities for specialist media? 

Get this model right and the potential for the kind of positive feedback loop, or growth flywheel as Bezos would call it, are significant. 

The basic model is to: 

  • Find a subject area that really matters to a community; 
  • Produce high-value content for that community that reflects and anticipates their needs; 
  • Get consistently closer to that audience through a range of content formats (events, communities, podcasts, meetups, etc.); 
  • Use learning from those interactions to further enhance the value of your offer.

It will ensure your value increases, as does the audience’s loyalty, your attractiveness to commercial partners, and so on. 

And this is a beautifully replicable, “productisable” model. 

Learn more about building specialist media businesses at Mx3 Berlin. Sign up here with the promo code “Di5rupt_20” to take advantage of our Meet the Speaker special offer.